Court Adjourns Labour Unions Case To February 2

The Industrial and Labour Court on Thursday adjourned hearing of the case involving government and the 12 labour unions to allow for the continuation of hearing on the motion moved by the second defendant.

    The court adjourned the case after the Counsel for the Bank of Ghana, Samuel Codjoe had moved the motion for the court to strike out a writ against them by the 12 labour unions.

    Mr Codjoe, said the counter claim does not disclose any course of action against the Bank of Ghana and also was an abuse of the legal process.

    He prayed that the counter claim should be dismissed and also the matter to the circumstances be set aside as against the application before the court.

     He told the court that the BoG serves only as a depository temporary receiver of the funds for the employer, saying under the law BoG as a depository of the fund set up under section 218 deals with the one who deposits the funds, thus the employer.

    He argued that the BoG cannot transfer the funds and therefore the position the defence counsel is setting is false.

   He said if the paragraphs referring to the BoG are struck out, BoG ceases to be a party.

   “The relief itself shows that the defence counsel themselves are aware that it is the Government of Ghana(GoG) which is expected to pay monthly remittance in respect of members of the defence into designated bank accounts and not the BoG and therefore cannot be held responsible for any purported peculiar losses associated to members of the defence”.

   Mr Codjoe said following the alleged failure of the GoG to do its duties, to proceed against the BoG in the circumstance will amount to an abuse of the court process.

   The case was later adjourned to February 2 for the defence counsel to react to the motion.

   At the last adjourned date the court presided over by Justice Saeed Kwaku Gyan was forced to adjourn the case due to the problem of improper service of notice.

   He said there was an affidavit on the court docket indicating that the Bank of Ghana had been served on January 22. But according to the bailiff the notice was served on someone at the registry of the bank instead of the bank's secretary.

   Earlier, the court granted an interlocutory injunction sought by the State restraining the Labour Unions from embarking on further strikes.

   Government had filed a writ before the Court seeking a declaration that the indefinite strike embarked upon by public sector workers was illegal and that the personnel should return to work.

   “This is a proper case that needs to be granted the injunction,” he added.

    The judge urged the Unions, especially its executives and members to exercise decorum and self-restraint in the best interest of the country.

    He said it should not take the intuition of a prophet to know that the action of the Unions would lead to the melt down of government machinery.

    Mr Gyan said the action of the Unions, especially doctors and nurses, who provide services to the citizenry, would cause death of patients.

    He said public policies must frown on those issues, indicating that he could however not say the strike by the Unions constituted a breach of contract.        

    An 18-point statement of claim said, among other issues: “The plaintiff’s claim is for an order that the defendants call off their illegal strike and resume work, as mandated by their respective contracts of employment.

   “The plaintiff’s claim is for an order that the defendants jointly and severally pay to the government, as employer, any financial or economic loss suffered by the government during the pendency of the strike,” it said.

   Public sector workers across the country last year declared a strike to protest against government’s decision to manage their second-tier pension funds, saying the decision was in contravention of the Pension Law.

    However, the Attorney-General, in the statement of claim, stated: “On a true and proper construction of sections 129 and 211 of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), the government is the employer of all public sector workers and is consequently entitled to appoint a trustee or trustees in relation to the second-tier pension scheme.”

    It further prayed the court that “In the alternative, a declaration that upon a true and proper construction of sections 129 and 211 of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), neither an employee nor a representative of such employee is by law entitled to sponsor an employer-sponsored scheme or a master trust scheme in relation to the second-tier pension”.

    The statement of claim said the plaintiff felt the grievance based upon which the aggrieved labour groups resorted to the indefinite strike was grossly misconceived and without any basis, “as the appointment of a trustee to manage the second-tier pension of public sector workers is exclusively the preserve of their employer, that is, the government of Ghana”.

    “Plaintiff avers that the appointment of the Pension Alliance Trust to administer and manage the second-tier pension of public sector workers was done after a process of rigorous screening by the Minister of Finance of five shortlisted companies in accordance with criteria established by the NPRA (National Pension Regulatory),” it added.

    It said as the employer of all public sector workers, the government had not impeded and did not intend to impede in any way whatsoever the full implementation of the second-tier pension scheme for government employees.

    “Plaintiff states that the government, as the employer of all public sector workers, represented by the defendants, has a vested interest in the contributions it pays monthly towards the retirement of its employees and cannot abdicate that responsibility to defendants,” it said.

    Consequently, membership of more than 800,000 workers called off the strike following the court order.

    The Unions include Health Service Workers Union, Ghana Registered Nurses Association, Ghana Medical Association, and Government and Hospital Pharmacists Association.

    Others are Ghana Physician Assistant Associations, Ghana Association of Certified Registered Anesthetists, Ghana National Association of Teachers, Teachers and Education Workers Union, National Association of Graduate Teachers and the Judicial Service Staff Association.